When it comes to entertainment in Chattanooga, the first few weeks of the year historically have been a bit lifeless, but the times they are a-changin'.
Thanks to some well-attended shows in recent years at Track 29 and other venues, Chattanooga has become a much bigger blip on bands' touring radars, and some groups are starting to route to us instead of through us.
For instance, tonight, Jan. 16, Athens, Ga.-based indie pop eccentrics Of Montreal will play Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St. If you were fortunate enough to see Kevin Barnes and company when they swung through to play Track 29 in 2012, you know the band's shows are a blast, a flamboyant whirlwind of color and whimsy, onstage and off.
In typical Of Montreal fashion, the band has been in a state of flux since its last Scenic City appearance. Barnes recorded with a largely reworked ensemble for the group's 12th album, "Lousy With Sylvianbriar." As might be expected, such pronounced membership upheaval means Of Montreal's music is being reinterpreted through a new filter, which should freshen up the group's entire catalog. That is to say: New year, new band.
I'll certainly miss on-again, off-again looping guru K. Ishibashi, who left Of Montreal in 2012 to pursue a promising solo career, but the prospect of seeing this newest iteration seems well worth Rhythm & Brews' $20 asking price. Downbeat is at 9 p.m.
An artist of Of Montreal's caliber making an appearance in town would be a red-letter day at any time of year, but the fact that they're coming in mid-January is a tribute to the fact that the start of the year is no longer an entertainment desert.
Of Montreal's show certainly has me excited, but Barnes and his crew aren't the only unexpectedly heavy hitters set to pay us a visit this week:
* Atlanta-based neo-Southern rock outfit and Zac Brown Band Records signees Blackberry Smoke wowed a massive audience on a side stage at Riverbend in 2012 and returned a few months later to play a well-attended show at Track 29, 1400 Market St. Friday, Jan. 17, the band will make its sophomore appearance there alongside Nashvillians The Delta Saints. The show kicks off at 9 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door.
* John Cowan was a co-founder of progressive acoustic pioneers New Grass Revival in the '80s. He's a frequent big-ticket artist at Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave., and he and his band will be back there on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205.
Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.